Sunday 26 January 2020

Enemy of the sun

Snake is in Slavic mythology described as "the enemy of the sun". As the protector of the sun, who saves the sun from the snake, we often find swallow.

In Serbia people believe that swallow saved the sun when snake tried to swallow it. In Bosnia people believe that the swallow hid one quarter of the sun under it's wing, to protect it from the snake. In Dalmatia people believe that once there were three or four suns in the sky and that the snake ate all but one, which swallow hid under its wing. Two "blind suns" which can sometimes be seen in the sky together with our normal sun are the ones which the snake ate. The one that heats us is the one that the swallow hid under its wing. The same legend exists in Montenegro where people believe that a huge dragon once sucked in two out of three suns which once existed. Dragon is just an old snake according to Slavic folklore.  

I talked more about the actual meaning of this legend in my post "Three suns".

There is also a story that once there were 9 rays on the sun, but that snake ate (sucked, drank) all but one. In Bulgaria people say that once snake bit the sun in the eyes when it bent down to drink water. Another version of this story says that the sun used to have two or more eyes, but that the snake "sucked" them all out.

Bulgarians believe that the sun celebrates the killing of snakes, because the snake sucked out one of sun's eyes. In Montenegro people say that every time a snake is killed, the sun happily exclaims "A dragon was killed".

Bulgarians believe that snakes eyes have magic affect on the sun. They say that the sun can't set unless the snake looks at it. In Poland people say that the sun would stop shining if the snake looked at it. This is because the snake's eyes can suck all sun's strength out. 

In Bosnia people believe that snake gets more poisonous if it often looks at the sun. The most poisonous are the snakes that look at the sun for nine days. God forbade snakes to look at the sun longer than nine days a year. A lot less poisonous are the snakes which look at the sun only six days a year. And even less poisonous are the ones which only look at the sun for three days a year. 9 days - 9 sunny months of the year comprising spring, summer, autumn? 

Ukrainians have a legend about a dragon which feeds on the sun, which is why the sun gets smaller and weaker as the year progresses. In Belarus people believe that snakes, while lying outside and sunbathing, actually sucking the sun's strength out, and that this is why the sun gets smaller and smaller as the summer progresses. You can again see the equating of snakes and dragons, who are just old snakes... The sun replenishes its strength during the winter when snakes are under the ground. 

This is why one should always kill a snake, or they will multiply so much that they will completely destroy the sun. 

The dead snake should be buried or hid in the deep shade so that sun doesn't see it. If the snake is not buried the sun will start to shine weakly and will start hiding behind the clouds, because it can't look at it's dead earthly enemy. The sun won't shine on a man who doesn't kill a snake for three days. People in Ukraine also believe that a dead snake should be hidden in a shade or buried so that it doesn't harm the sun in some way. Polish people believe that a dead snake should always be buried so that the sun can't see it. If the sun sees a dead snake it might get extinguished. Also if the sun sees a dead snake it will get sick and turn red. The sun will get sick and start crying, because the snake is poisonous. The setting sun is red if it had seen a dead snake which wasn't buried. If a live snake comes out of its hole to sunbath, the sun will get sick and get pale. In Pomerania people believe that snakes actually don't like looking at the sun. If a snake is lying still, staring at the sun, has gone mad.

There is also a belief, which is found in all Slavic countries from Baltic to Balkans, that if you kill a snake, it will twitch and jump around, even if you chop it in bits, until the sun sets.

In Bulgaria people believe that the snake bite wound should be exposed to the sun. In Poland people believe that the person who was bitten by a snake should be outside, in the sun, or he will get sick.

People in Ukraine and Poland believe that snakes once had wings and flew in the sky. But the sun burned their wings and they fell on the ground. 

There is a Polish legend that says that the solar eclipse happens because a dragon covers the sun with its body. 

There is also a Polish fairy tale it is a twelve headed snake which causes solar eclipse. Again we have equating of snakes and dragons. The motif of a dragon swallowing the sun can be found in all Slavic countries.

From all this we can see that snakes are symbol of sun's heat and dragons (old snakes) are symbol of late summer (old) sun's heat. 


  1. Can you give me a source for the Polish fairy tale about the twelve-headed dragon?

    1. Translated from Simbolika zivotinja u slovenskoj narodnoj tradiciji (Serbian) by Aleksandar Gura. The links to the original sources he used are all in the book. Can't really go searching for it now.

  2. Fascinating! The association of the serpent with the sun is extremely archaic. I think of the priest metal workers of Anatolia, the HT-NS, who fabricated solar images with serpentine forms. That is likely what Moses fabricated in the narrative of the serpents in the wilderness.

  3. "From all this we can see that snakes are symbol of sun's heat and dragons (old snakes) are symbol of late summer (old) sun's heat."
    This does not correlate at all!